Clockwise from top left, hand-made corn tortillas, carne asada tacos and tangy chicharrones with rice and beans.
Not many vegetarian meals are served at La Huerta International Market. Those who eschew meat may wish to avoid one of two entrances into the restaurant – the one that takes customers past La Huerta's meat counter, where peeled beef knuckles and top round rest cheek by jowl with pork fat and pig's blood sausage.
Juan and Rossy Murguia opened La Huerta three months ago, duplicating their thriving market in Kent: grocery products from Latin America, Asia and the United States, fresh tortillas and baked goods, a meat counter, and a restaurant that serves authentic Mexican food in a nice setting, at affordable prices.
The menu that hangs above La Huerta's steam table touts tacos ($1.25 each, with choice of meat), burritos ($6.99), tamales ($2.25 each) and two treats featuring thick, hand-made corn tortillas – Jalisco-style gorditas (meat, lettuce and tomatoes sandwiched between two tortillas, $2.99) and Salvadoran pupusas (tortillas stuffed with meat, $2.99).
Grab one of the paper menus – or just gaze at the steam table – for more. Guisados are a great deal – sort of a Mexican plate lunch, featuring a choice of stewed meats (pork with peppers, chicken with corn and eggplant, spicy beef and goat), plus rice and beans. One-item guisados are $4.99, two-item guisados are $5.99. For breakfast, I enjoyed a plate of chilaquiles , a corn tortilla casserole with chicken, tangy tomatillo sauce and a hunk of fresh, fluffy cheese. For lunch, a serving of chicharrones (slices of stewed pork, crowned with fat) took me back to the border.
I was less pleased with the tamal I ordered: It was re-heated in the microwave and arrived rubbery and crusty. The beef in my tacos was both gristly and over-cooked. But the chorizo sausage in my gordita had spicy, vinegary bite.
For vegetarians, there are cheese enchiladas and chile rellenos. Soups, from chicken-vegetable to tripe-filled menudo, round out the menu.
La Huerta International Market: 5605 Pacific Ave. S, Tacoma; 253-474-1645. Hours: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays. Prices: $.